“FFVA is really our voice, our eyes and our ears out there for us in the industry,” says Eric Hopkins, vice president of Hundley Farms in Loxahatchee.
“FFVA is really our voice, our eyes and our ears out there for us in the industry,” says Eric Hopkins, vice president of Hundley Farms in Loxahatchee.

Heading into the end of the spring season, FFVA is wrapping up an incredibly busy year. As always, the association’s efforts and resources have been focused on key issues that affect Florida growers.

Pushing the Farm Bill across the finish line and advancing immigration reform have been at the top of a fairly long list this year.

Whether the challenges are short- or long-term, FFVA staffers stay busy working on a host of concerns that keep our members up at night: water quantity and quality issues, invasive plant pests and diseases, workforce, food safety and more.

Farm Bill victory

When President Obama signed the Agriculture Act of 2014 into law, it represented a big win for specialty crop agriculture, which accounts for half of the nation’s farm gate value. The measure’s path to passage was long and winding.

But in the end, the bill invests almost $6 billion in specialty crops over five years – a significant 56 percent increase over the previous Farm Bill.

The funding will support industry priorities such as research, nutrition, pest and disease mitigation, expansion of markets and block grant programs – all of which are vital for growers to remain competitive in a global marketplace. 

In its years-long leadership role with the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, FFVA has been dedicated to ensuring that the importance of specialty crops is recognized in ag policy at the federal level. FFVA President Mike Stuart has served as co-chair of the alliance since its inception.

On immigration reform, it’s been a long slog. FFVA has devoted significant resources to the effort, working with other ag organizations as part of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition to ensure lawmakers understand the unique needs of ag employers.

The Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill last June that includes programs that would give farmers access to a stable, legal workforce. But much uncertainty remains over what will happen in the House.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has been a strong ally of agriculture to get reform done, but there is strong opposition from others in the GOP.

A collective voice 

FFVA uses the collective strength of its membership to be a credible, respected presence at the table when agriculture’s challenges are discussed locally, regionally and at the federal level. And leaders listen.

Our members say that’s why they are part of FFVA. We give the grower-shipper community a voice when legislation and regulations that affect them and their ability to compete are being considered in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee.

“We don’t have time to monitor all of the different labor issues and what’s going on in Tallahassee and what’s going on in Washington,” says Eric Hopkins, vice president of Hundley Farms in Loxahatchee. “FFVA is really our voice, our eyes and our ears out there for us in the industry. FFVA has taken on the issues that are really too big for me as a single farmer to take on.”

Jamie Williams, director of Florida production for Lipman Produce, says FFVA’s relationships with policymakers and others are important.

“One of the keys for us is the relationships that FFVA has built with the regulatory agencies and the political establishment. And those are ever-changing landscapes,” Williams says. “They’re able to stay in touch with (leaders), build relationships with them and help navigate a course for Florida agriculture that’s beneficial to all of ag, not just certain segments of it.”

FFVA, which has been serving growers for more than 70 years, represents the vast majority of specialty crop agriculture in the state. But if you aren’t a member yet, consider the value and return on investment that belonging to the organization would bring to you and your company.

Don’t take my word for it … hear what other growers are saying about FFVA. Find out more at www.ffva.com/joinFFVA.

Lisa Lochridge is the director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland. She can be reached at 321-214-5206 or lisa.lochridge@ffva.com.